Baird Meets with Tech Community in Silicon Valley

February 7, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird visited the headquarters of Google and Twitter in Silicon Valley, California, today, where he discussed the two companies’ work in Canada and explored how the Internet and social media are shaping government and foreign policy.

While in the region, Baird also met with senior politicians and academic experts to discuss Canada-U.S. relations, foreign policy and national security issues.

Speaking today, Baird said:

“The Internet is an incredible tool that empowers the lives of individuals around the planet—creating space for open dialogue, giving voice to the voiceless and expanding human rights.

“We watch as citizens around the world increasingly shape major events and change entire countries, empowered by the ability to connect with one another.

“The fast and free exchange of information is changing the nature of diplomacy and foreign affairs, just as it is changing industries. The closed world of démarches, summits and diplomatic dinners is no longer sufficient to project our values and interests.

“Diplomacy may never live up to the Silicon Valley mantra of ‘move fast and break things,’ for various reasons. But in the environment of instant communication and social media, we do have to move faster and not be afraid to try new things or to make mistakes.

“Using social media and insights from big-data analytics, we can engage in direct diplomacy, not just elite diplomacy. Social media mapping exercises at Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada have helped us to reach out to civic actors who seek to bring about positive social and political change in the countries they live in.

“We must be mindful, however, that where we see opportunities in technological change, others see threats. Tools for freedom can also become tools of repression.

“Closed and unstable governments fear the voice of their own citizens and are no longer content to leave the Internet alone. They respond by using the power of technology to try to block access to information, restrict free expression and target dissent.

“Canada and the United States must continue to work together to safeguard an Internet that remains innovative, free and open for the social and economic benefit of all users. And we will only succeed in this if government works hand-in-hand with the private sector and civil society.”

Follow @HonJohnBaird on Twitter for updates on the trip.

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